As a native Oakland Parker, I feel confident in calling Peter Pan Diner a staple of the community. This family owned restaurant has called the southeast corner of Oakland Park Blvd and Dixie Hwy its home since its opening in 1979.
The owner, Jeronimos Kourkoumelis, was kind enough to chat with me. He and his loyal staff of 65 serve up an extensive menu of Greek influenced breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert options from 6am to midnight every day of the week.
A fun fact was revealed during my conversation with Jeronimos. Did you know the name Peter Pan Diner with the Disney character referenced logo was, as Bob Ross would say, a “happy accident”? Jeronimos’ father, Peter, was presenting his business pitch to the City back in 1979 and intended to call his restaurant Peter’s Pan. You know, as in cookware. Meals coming straight from Peter’s pan! Due to Peter’s thick Greek accent, they believed he said Peter Pan Diner and he decided to roll with it.
41 years after its opening, Peter Pan Diner is still actively serving the community and strengthening its bonds with its regulars. Jeronimos spoke of how proud he is that BSO and other officers patronize his restaurant regularly. He also has a space within the dining area where the Oakland Park Kiwanis Club has met weekly (pre-COVID) for the last 35 years.
When we spoke about his regulars, he explained that it was more like family. His customers are mostly locals that live in the nearby neighborhoods. The quote found on the website is, “Come By First Time, We’ll Remember Your Face. Second Time, We Know What You Order. Third Time, You’re FAMILY.”
I was able to see this in action when I stopped in for breakfast with my family on Sunday. I watched as a customer greeted a table where a couple was sitting and excitedly began chatting like old friends. While eating mouth watering french toast and eavesdropping, I learned that they were all regulars of Peter Pan that hadn’t seen each other due to the quarantine. They were just beginning to venture out. Not only do Jeroniomos and his staff build bonds with the regulars but the regulars build friendships with other regulars.
I had the opportunity to chat with one of Peter Pan’s beloved customers this past week, Ann Erickson. She visits the diner every Sunday after church with a group of friends and sits at the lounge, but made a special trip last Monday for her birthday.
When I asked Ann why she made Peter Pan part of her routine she had a lot to say. She said Jeronimos and the staff never lose their personalities. This year has been challenging for the hospitality industry but you would never know it at the diner because the staff continue to keep positive attitudes.
Ann went on to say that her health is a concern and she trusts the standards Peter Pan Diner has for cleanliness and food safety. To top it off, she says the food is great and has a homemade feel! Her favorites include the chicken salad sandwich and the meatloaf. She makes sure to take the Avgolemeno soup home with her to eat for lunch the next day. As much as Ann gushed about her friends at Peter Pan, Jeronimos made sure to let me know the staff adore her in the same way.
As I was finishing up writing this piece, I took a timeout to scroll through facebook and came across a brag post for Peter Pan Diner and Jeronimos from a friend of mine. Longtime customer and friend of the diner, Ezequiel Diaz, posted “Just when you think things can’t get any better Peter Pan Diner Ft Laudie sends this amazing spread of food to our family. Thank you, Love you. From all 4 of us” with the image below.
The Diaz family welcomed a new baby boy earlier this week. Much like a family friend would do, Jeronimos and the staff at Peter Pan Diner made a care package of goodies to deliver to his home to celebrate their newest arrival. As soon as I saw the social media post, I knew we had to let the world know about this beautiful, random act of kindness.
Now more than ever, living in a community that feels a little more like a family is priceless. Places like Peter Pan Diner are what make our neighborhood special. It is together that we form the unique community of Oakland Park. #TogetherWeAreOP
Christine Chaparro is an Oakland Park native and lives in the neighborhood with her husband and three kids. She is slated to graduate from Florida International University this summer with her Bachelor’s degree in Writing and Rhetoric and hopes to show her children that any obstacle can be overcome with the right attitude and hard work.
When she is not writing or submerged in school work, she is creating memories with her family. She enjoys crafting, building, renovating, gardening and cooking. Competition is big in the Chaparro house whether it be super-soaker fights, pranks or board games. Miami Heat basketball and Florida Panthers hockey are her two favorite teams to cheer on. Her family loves the Oakland Park events and supporting local businesses.